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Daily Dose

Codeine & Children

1:30 to read

I order to keep us all safe, the FDA is constantly monitoring drugs and their side effects.  For many years codeine was prescribed for children for pain relief as well as to suppress coughs.  Over the last few years there has been more and more discussion about limiting the use of narcotics in children, but I continue to see some children who come from seeing other physicians and have received a prescription that contains codeine.

 

The FDA just issued new warnings against using prescription codeine in children and adolescents. The FDA reviewed adverse event reports from the past 50 years and found reports of severe breathing problems and 24 deaths linked to codeine in children and adolescents. Genetic variation in codeine metabolism may lead to excessive morphine levels in some children.

 

The FDA also performed a literature review which noted excessive sleepiness and breathing problems, including one death, in breast-fed infants whose mothers used codeine.

 

Due to these findings the FDA is now recommending that “codeine should not be used for pain or cough in children under 12 years of age”. They have also issued a warning that codeine should not be used in adolescents aged 12-18 “who are obese or have conditions associated with breathing problems, such as obstructive sleep apnea or severe lung disease”. In retrospect, codeine was prescribed to more than 800,000 children younger than11 years in 2011. Amazingly, codeine is currently available in over-the-counter cough medicines in 28 states.  

 

Lastly, the FDA “strengthened the warning” regarding codeine and breast feeding. They now recommend that breast- feeding women do not use codeine…which may change the post delivery pain protocol. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (Ibuprofen) and acetaminophen (Tylenol) are preferred and are effective for mild to moderate postpartum pain. As a pediatrician it is important that I discuss this with new breast-feeding mothers as well. 

Daily Dose

Colds & Suctioning Your Child's Nose

1:30 to read

I am beginning to sound like a broken record, but we are in the throes of cold and flu season and unfortunately there are a few more months of this.  As every parent knows, colds (aka upper respiratory infections) are “age neutral”. 

In other words, there is not an age group that is immune to getting a cold and for every age child (and adult for that matter), the symptoms are the same. Congested nostrils, scratchy sore throat, cough, and just plain old feeling “yucky”. When an infant gets a stuffy nose, whether it is from “normal” newborn congestion, or from a cold, they often have a difficult time eating as an infant is a nose breather.  When they are nursing and their nose is “stopped  up”, they cannot breath or even eat, so it is sometimes necessary to clear their nasal passage to allow them to “suck” on the bottle or breast. 

Of course it is self evident that an infant cannot blow their nose, or rub or pick their nose so they must either be fortunate enough to sneeze those” boogers” out or have another means to clear the nose.  This is typically accomplished by using that wonderful “bulb syringe”. In our area they are called “blue bulb syringes” and every baby leaves the hospital with one tucked into their discharge pack.  As a new parent the blue bulb syringe looked daunting as the tip of the syringe appeared to be bigger than the baby’s nose.  But, if you have ever watched a seasoned nurse suck out a newborn’s nose, they can somehow manage to get the entire tip inside a baby’s nose. For the rest of us the tip just seemed to get inside the nostril and despite my best efforts at suctioning nothing came out. Once a nurse showed me the right “technique” I got to be a pretty good “suctioner”.  With the addition of a little nasal saline, which you can buy in pre made spray bottles, or which may be made at home with table salt and warm water, the suctioning gets a little easier as the nose drops helped to suction the mucous.

Now, I have become a firm believer that there is a place for suctioning a baby’s nose, but once a child is over about 6 months of age they KNOW  what you are getting ready to do. I am convinced that a 6 month baby with a cold sees the “blue bulb syringe” approaching their face and their eyes become dilated in fear of being suctioned!!  Then they begin to wail, and I know that when I cry I just make more mucous and the more I cry the more I make. So a baby with an already stuffy nose gets even more congested and “snotty” and the bulb syringe is only on an approach to their nose. It also takes at least two people to suction out a 6 – 12 month old baby’s nose as they can now purposely move away , and hit out to you to keep you away from their face and nose. It is like they are saying, “ I am not going to give in to the bulb syringe” without a fight! I swore I would not have a child with a “green runny nose” that was not suctioned.

As most parents know, don’t swear about anything, or you will be forever breaking unreasonable promises to yourself!  I think bulb suctioning is best for young infant’s and once they start to cry and put up a fight I would use other methods to help clear those congested noses.  Go back to the age old sitting in a bathroom which has been steamed up with hot water from a the shower. Or try a cool mist humidifier with some vapor rub in the mist (aroma therapy).  Those noses will ultimately run and the Kleenex will come out for perpetual wiping. Unfortunately, it takes most children many years before they learn to blow their nose, but what an accomplishment that is!!!  An important milestone for sure.

That's your daily dose for today. We'll chat again tomorrow. Send your question or comment to Dr. Sue!

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Daily Dose

Over The Counter Products

1:30 to read

So, if you have read my daily doses you are aware that my “news watching” comes from morning TV while I am getting ready for work!!  I often find myself talking to the TV, especially when it is a medical segment which includes pediatrics.  While I am excited that morning TV is covering health topics, some of the information may be a bit “misguided” when a pediatrician is not the one discussing a pediatric topic.

I “heard” another example of this the other morning when the morning shows were discussing the “top pharmacist picks for over the counter products”.  It seems they surveyed pharmacists  and then compiled a list of “favorite” name brand OTC products in numerous categories - I don’t  think there was much science behind this. At any rate, we all have our “favorite” go to “OTC” products which for one reason or another we prefer. Does that actually mean they are better?

So, here are a few that I had issue with:

Allergy medications: They picked Claritin, but why not Zyrtec or Allegra?  They are all second generation anti-histamines and there is not a great deal of data that one is better than another. If push came to shove and I could only pick one antihistamine it would be Benadryl (diphenhydramine) - despite its sedating properties it is still a great drug.

Topical antibacterial medication: They picked neosporin and I would pick polysporin. Neosporin contains neomycin which may cause an allergic contact reaction. Other than neomycin they are quite similar and both contain topical lidocaine for pain relief.  Guess what -  they are made by the same company!!  

Pain relief:  They picked Advil, but why not Motrin or generic ibuprofen.  I am frugal and buy whatever is on sale, same drug.  I always remind parents of this as sometimes they get confused and say, “Advil didn’t work so I gave them Motrin” double dosing them with same drug. Be careful.

GI complaints:  Pharmacists picked Pepto-Bismol. I do not recommend Pepto-Bismol to  children as it contains  bismuth subsalicylate which is related to aspirin and has been associated with Reye’s Syndrome.  The bottle is labelled “do not use under the age of 12 years” due to this concern, but parents may not read the fine print. There is a Children’s Pepto that contains only calcium carbonate and may be given to children as young as 2 years….really important to read the labels as there are many choices with similar names.

Lip balm: Their choice was Carmex. I do not recommend lip balm/gloss that contains menthol or camphor as it may actually damage the lips and cause more drying…so you apply more then it is a vicious cycle.  You want to use lip balm with bees wax or petrolatum and no fragrance. I like Aquaphor, Burt’s Bees and Vaseline.  

Formula: Their choice was Enfamil.  I recommend any of the formula brands including Simliac and Gerber as well as some Organic Formulas if my patients desire.  I don’t know why they would pick only one brand…no data on that either.

Sunscreen:  Their choice Neutrogena, which I also love. They make good products that are hypoallergenic and PABA free, and they have many different vehicles (spray, lotion, stick) to choose from. I am also a fan of Cerave products and they now have sunscreen for babies.  But the most important fact is to use a sunscreen of any brand with an SPF of at least 30 and one that contains zinc or titanium dioxide and no PABA or oxybenzone. 

Those are just a few of my comments and favorites.

 

Daily Dose

Antibiotics

1:30 to read

Fall is here and winter is just around the corner, which will usher in another “sick season”. I am already thinking about illness as I just finished reading a JAMA article about the overuse of antibiotics.  Did you know that the CDC estimates that “30% of antibiotic prescriptions in the U.S. are unnecessary”? 

The CDC reported that the majority of these misused antibiotics were prescribed for viral upper respiratory infections including the common cold, bronchitis and sinus and ear infections.  Which gets me back to “sick season” and the busy pediatric office.

Parents frequently bring their child in for one of the many viral upper respiratory infections that a child has, especially in the first 5 years of life, and “assume” that they will receive an antibiotic. In fact, I am still amazed that with all of the news about “superbugs” and emerging antibiotic resistance, some parents continue to “push” for a antibiotic because their child has had a fever, cough and runny nose for several days.  

The head of the CDC recently stated, “antibiotics are lifesaving drugs and if we continue down the road of inappropriate use, we will lose the most powerful tool we have to fight life threatening infections”.  In other words, we doctors need to be very judicious when deciding to prescribe an antibiotic and patients need to ask questions as to the necessity for taking an antibiotic.  It seems much too often I hear a parent say to me, “I am sick as well, so I went to the doctor who gave me an antibiotic for my cough and congestion, why aren’t you going to give an antibiotic to my child?”.  They often follow this statement with, “I felt so much better after being on an antibiotic for several days….”, but I actually think many of them felt better as they were getting better on their own and not due to the antibiotic.

In this JAMA article it was noted that “prescribing rates were highest in children age 2 years and younger. (who also get the most viral URI’s in a year) . There were also distinctions in prescribing practices by region of the country with the West having a lower rate of antibiotic prescribing than the South. 

So…looking forward to “sick season” I may be quoting this JAMA article when I once again explain to a parent, or a child….that their fever, cough and cold is due to a virus and that there is not the need for an antibiotic. In fact, a parent might want to boast, “my child has never been on an antibiotic”...which is a good thing. Save the prescription for a time when it is really warranted, and at the same time “pay it forward” by helping to prevent even more antibiotic resistance in this country.

Your Teen

Acetaminophen, No Threat To Child's Liver

2.00 to read

With more than eight million American kids taking the drug every week, acetaminophen is the nation's most popular drug in children. It's toxic to the liver in high doses, and can be fatal if taken in excess. Very rarely, adults may also get liver damage at normal doses, so doctors had worried if the same was true for kids. Concerns about liver injuries in children who take the common painkiller acetaminophen, sold as Tylenol in the U.S. are unfounded, researchers said on Monday. "None of the 32,000 children in this study were reported to have symptoms of obvious liver disease," said Dr. Eric Lavonas of the Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center in Denver. "The only hint of harm we found was some lab abnormalities." With more than eight million American kids taking the drug every week, acetaminophen is the nation's most popular drug in children. It's toxic to the liver in high doses, and can be fatal if taken in excess. Very rarely, adults may also get liver damage at normal doses, so doctors had worried if the same was true for kids. "This drug is used so commonly that even a very rare safety concern is a big concern," said Lavonas, whose findings appear in the journal Pediatrics. Some researchers suspect there is a link between long-term use of acetaminophen and the global rise in asthma and allergies, but the evidence is far from clear at this point. For the new report, researchers pooled earlier studies that followed kids who had been given acetaminophen for at least 24 hours. There were no reports of liver injuries leading to symptoms such as stomachache, nausea or vomiting, in the 62 reports they found. Ten kids, or about three in 10,000, had high levels of liver enzymes in their blood, which usually means their livers have been damaged. In most cases, however, those elevations were unrelated to acetaminophen. And even if they were caused by the drug, they don't indicate lasting damage, according to Lavonas. "Acetaminophen is extremely safe for children when given correctly," he said. "Parents should not be afraid to give acetaminophen to their children when they need it, but they should be very careful about giving the right dose." "If you suspect that you have given a child an overdose, call your state's poison center," he added. The Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center receives funding from McNeil Consumer Healthcare, the Johnson & Johnson subsidiary that sells Tylenol, but the researchers said the company did not support this study.

Daily Dose

Gassy Baby? No Problem!

1:30 to read

So you are home from the hospital with your newborn baby and suddenly you realize that the babies you see on TV never cry -  but your newborn is not reading the same script.  All babies have some fussy times, and this is especially true of a newborn in the first few months of life.  While a “typical” baby cries for a total of  3-4 hours a day, there are other babies that seem to be more difficult.  

 

Besides praying for an easy baby it seems to be luck of the draw and you don’t get to pick your baby’s temperament. In many of the cases of an “irritable” infant parents point to the fact that their baby acts uncomfortable and will frequently pass gas or draw up their legs or arch their backs as if something “hurts”.   

 

Your newborn’s tummy and intestines are just as “new” as they are and early on it may be more difficult for some babies to digest breast milk or formula.  In this case pediatricians often try to make changes in a breast feeding mother’s diet (taking out dairy), or changing a formula to a lactose free formula to see if that helps a baby to be more comfortable and less fussy. There are also “elemental formulas” that may be tried for extremely fussy babies. Discuss this with your own pediatrician.

 

Little tummies do make a lot of gas (you hear those toots all of the time) and I often recommend a trial of Little Remedies Gas Relief Drops® which contain simethicone (to help break up gas bubbles). These drops are especially made for infants and do not contain any alcohol, preservatives or dyes.  You can try using the gas drops after your baby has been fed as well as at bed time. 

 

Colic is defined as crying that occurs in an infant for at least 3 hours a day, for 3 days a week, for at least 3 weeks.  Colic typically “rears its angry head” after a baby is 3 -4 weeks of age.  For those irritable, colicky babies (I had one and you will know) I also like to try Little Remedies Gripe Water which is made with ginger and fennel, herbs that have been shown to help relax the  smooth muscle of the intestine.  Again, these drops do not contain any alcohol….which is very important. 

 

I also recommend swaddling and a pacifier for “non- nutritive” sucking to help calm a crying baby.  Many babies also like being on their tummies (tummy time is important developmentally as well) when they are fussy, and you can even massage their backs as well. Remember, even if tempted,  NEVER let your baby sleep on their tummy, even if you are in the room!! Backs to sleep only.

 

Babies also seem to like motion to calm them so holding your baby and rocking or swaying may help decrease crying. A walk in the stroller is sometimes another great way to get a fussy baby to settle down. Fresh air is good for both parent and child!

 

Daily Dose

Treating Scabies

There has been an outbreak of scabies recently. Here's how to treat it.I received an email via our iPhone App from a mother whose 6 year old son had scabies and had been treated two times with permethrin cream, but had just had another re-occurrence.  She wondered if there were any other options for treatment.

Scabies is a mite that causes an eczematous skin rash with associated horrible itching. Infestation with the scabies mite is the result of skin to skin contact.  The mite burrows beneath the skin and the feces of the mite causes an allergic hypersensitivity reaction with resulting skin inflammation and itching. It can be fairly miserable when it goes on for awhile. (Once again my own son had it 20 years ago and that was actually one of the first times I had seen the rash of scabies and it took 3 different doctors including an allergist to finally diagnose it! ). It is sometimes easily diagnosed as a child will have a classic rash on their, trunk, arms and legs, and may even has the classic burrow tract of the mite between their toes and fingers. At other times scabies can be a great masquerader and the diagnosis may be made by scraping the skin and looking at it under the microscope where the actual mite or mite parts may be seen. If in doubt it is always a good idea to do a scraping. The time from infestation with the mite to actually symptoms may be as long as 6 weeks. During this time the “index” case in a family harbors the mites and are infectious, but they may not yet be symptomatic with the typical rash of scabies. When you diagnose a child with scabies the most important thing to do is to not only treat the child but treat the entire family unit.  Because the mite has such a long infectious incubation period it is important to treat all family members at the same time.  The standard treatment is with 5% permethrin cream, which is typically applied at night to all body surfaces from neck to toes. (do not bath before putting on the cream as this will help reduce the systemic absorption of the medicine). Make sure to get the cream between the web spaces of the fingers and toes.  The cream is left on over night (remember entire family) and then washed off in the am.  The next day I would wash all of the clothes and sheets in hot water.  If there are clothing that will not tolerate this put them in a platic bag for 72 hours (which is the life span of the mite off of the body). Even after a patient is successfully treated the itching may continue for several more days and may be treated with topical steroid cream (Cortaid over the counter or a prescription steroid cream).  What you will notice is that while the intense itching is diminishing, there are no NEW areas of rash. Most treatment failures seem to be due to not applying the cream with attention to complete coverage,  or to not treating the entire family at the same time. Another medication Lindane (Kwell) has been used to treat scabie,  but has been associated with the potential for neurotoxicity and is rarely prescribed, especially for younger children. There is also an antiparasitic medication, Ivermectin that is currently being studied for the treatment of scabies. That's your daily dose for today.  We'll chat again tomorrow. Send your question to Dr. Sue!

Daily Dose

Cold Season is Here

School starts and colds start almost simultaneously no matter how old your child is.School starts and colds start almost simultaneously. It even amazes me to see kids with their first cold of the season within 15 minutes of starting school, whether it is Mother's Day Out or high school, it affects every age.

The worst part of a having a cold is knowing that it is going to last seven to 10 days, no matter what you do. The old adage of rest, fluids and nasal irrigation is still the mainstay of treatment. Remember that over the counter cough and cold medicines are not recommended for use in children under the age of 2 and really are not very effective in the overall scheme of things. There has been some renewed interest in zinc and reduction of symptoms and decreased duration of colds so stay tuned for more info on that. In the meantime, keep up hand washing and good cough hygiene to try and prevent getting one of the first colds of the season. That's your daily dose, we'll chat tomorrow!

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